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Louisville – Saturday Night



 

Saturday Evening

           

It was finally here. The biggest night of the year in the Saddlebred/Hackney industry. Christmas in August. Even after going through nearly 250 classes to get to this point, trainers, owners, exhibitors and even officials had butterflies in anticipation of the evening’s events.

           

As it has for several years, the Ladies Five-Gaited Championship opened the session. Its gelding qualifier had been the deepest class of the horse show and coupled with a strong mare class which featured the best performance by My Chanel since her junior world’s grand championship in 1999, this figured to be a barn burner.

           

Twelve ladies were accounted for when the gates swung closed and most all the heavy hitters were present although it wouldn’t remain that way. Not long into the class My Chanel lost a shoe that was deemed unreplaceable in center ring. Dr. Owen Weaver led her mare from the ring with trainer Lonnie Quarles at her side. The crowd responded with a large ovation, only slightly helping the disappointment that Weaver felt.

           

On the second way of the ring the hard going class again came to a halt. This time Misdee Wrigley’s always popular gelding Title Bound was led from the ring when something was apparently not right with him. Wrigley too made the long walk to the exit gate with concern and disappointment showing on her face.

           

Picking the action back up, the remaining titans let it all out. The ability and quality of the top horses from this class was truly amazing, but in the end it was the newest of the ladies contenders standing alone to wear the roses. A world’s champion weanling in 1999, the junior gaited world’s grand champion in 2003 and now with two of the three first place votes, the Ladies Five-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions in 2005, Walterway’s Remember Me joined the storied string of Louisville champions owned and presented by the Wheeler family. Ceil Wheeler made the winning ride under the direction of Nelson Green.

           

Wearing the roses two years ago, Callaway’s Born To Win was the reserve grand champion with Gayle Lampe representing the Mike Roberts Stables. Grand champion in 2004, Callaway’s Banner Headline and Janet Crampton pushed every step of the way to land a third place finish for Alde-Mar Farm. Also in the mix with several good passes Take Me Away and Mary McClean were fourth, while Tracy James continued a most impressive first season together to land fifth with It’s More Than Likely. All of the top five had won major titles in 2005.

           

The remaining three ribbon winners certainly weren’t filler as they too were backed up by a list of good wins. Heading that group Feel The Thunder who was followed by CH Chandler and Pucker Up.

           

It has probably been a few years since there were 10 ponies with records like those in the Road Pony World’s Grand Championship. This was a class in which a few of the amateur owners came back with their high powered sportsters as well. In just their second year, Calvin Hobbs and Andy Freseth put it all together to take two first place votes. The Junior Road Pony World’s Champion of Champions in 2003 with Chris Gantley and the reserve world’s grand champion last year with Freseth, Calvin Hobbs wore the roses this year with Freseth again at the whip for Priscilla Gise.

           

With two seconds and a third, Nightheir was presented by owner/driver Mike Schallock to command reserve grand champion honors. Third, fourth, and fifth places votes gave former Harness Pony and Pleasure Driving Pony World’s Champion Heartland Special Special a third place finish for trainer Ronnie Graham and owner Seven Oaks Stable. After a Road Pony Grand Championship at Lexington Junior League and a world’s champion performance in the qualifier the always exciting Free Willy received a first place vote along with a fourth and an off the card to exit Freedom Hall with a fourth place finish. Owner Georgia Blevins was the in the bike with Maureen Lydon the trainer.

           

In a class that had votes all over the place Heartland Picture Perfect was fifth with a two, five, six. This Mike and Jane Schallock entry was driven by Rick Wallen. Lamborghini, Razz-Ma-Tazz, and Twin Willow’s Storm Warning rounded out the prize winners.

           

Just as the dust had settled in this one, the gates opened and 15 entries returned for the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited 14-17 Championship. What a thrill for the young riders to participate on a Saturday night Louisville stage filled with electricity. It was indeed the best of the best competing for a world’s champion of champions title and the right to make a stake night victory pass.

           

The parity in the industry was never more evident than in this championship as the prizes went to barns from throughout the country. They made them all take notice on a Saturday night back in July at the Red Mile and they did it again in Freedom Hall. Nicola van der Walt and Nelmar Tango 4 Ever made every pass count and captured two firsts and a second among the panel of three. This was icing on the cake for an already great year for the Van der Walt and Blacklaw families of Singing Hills Stables, Oregon City, Ore.

           

This was also a fairy tale week for Minnesota trainer Jay Wood who was making his first trip to Louisville as a professional trainer. Earlier in the week his junior exhibitor team of Ashley Moore and Devote brought down the house in a 10-horse workout. Earlier in the day Wood had won the Three-Year-Old Fine Harness Mare World’s Championship with a filly he and his wife had bred and raised. To finish it off, Moore and Devote came back to land the Junior Exhibitor Three-Gaited 14-17 Reserve World’s Champion of Champions title with a first and second place vote.

           

Both top teams had to be right on the money because the California combination of She’s My Desire BH and Julie DeVault wanted the roses just as badly. Trainer Bill Tomin was extremely proud of their third place votes across the board. Winner of the younger age group tricolor in '04, Just Special and Allison Combs were strong fourth place finishers for Mercer Springs Farm. They defeated, among others, Day’s Grecian Gray, Heir To A Star, CH Sportster, and Steel In Love.

           

The action didn’t let up any as the nine-entry Ladies Three-Gaited World’s Championship was next on the agenda. The top five finishers in this one had an amazing list of world’s titles coming from various divisions. As a two and three-year-old the Merchant Prince son, Marching Orders, earned Louisville titles with unanimous decisions for his former owners and trainers. Now as a four-year-old, teamed with his new amateur owner, Marching Orders was the unanimous Ladies Three-Gaited World’s Champion of Champions. This capped off one of the most successful single weeks for any one owner/trainer combination (Barbara Goodman Manilow/Dick Obenauf) in the history of the show.

           

Either first or second for the last few years, CH Lady Periana was the reserve world’s champion of champions for Phillipa Sledge. Right there with a very solid show was Premier Stables stable mate CH Pas de Deux, ridden by Rosemarie Fernandez. Three-time World’s Grand Champion CH An Heir About Her finished in fourth with Sarah Rowland in the irons. And a world’s champion in park last year, Sunshine Way was the fifth place finisher for Lisa Strickland and owner Julie Hambrick. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, An Heir Of Magic, and Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves took the remaining ribbons.

           

The smallest class of the night was the five-entry Harness Pony World’s Grand Championship. What a week it was for Bent Tree Farm and it continued as Par Excellence was driven to the title by Larry Ella who had also driven Par Excellence’s sire, Mark Of Excellence to the Hackney Pony World’s Grand Championship in 1994. Last year’s world’s grand champion, Shake Don’t Stir paraded as this year’s reserve world’s grand champion with Mary Gaylord McClean at the whip for Golden Creek Farms. Shake Don’t Stir had garnered one of the first place votes, while Par Excellence had two.

           

With 16 entering the ring for the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship the pace was again frantic. This was another high powered group with a long list of world’s title holders doing battle. Everywhere they looked judges Kim Crumpler, Fran Crumpler, and Melinda Moore had a world’s champion making a stellar pass. The bad luck on this night continued for Misdee Wrigley as she had to call time out to have Lakeview’s Rare-A-Phi's tail put back in. Another horse had stepped on it, pulling the brace, switch and all out.

           

Following the strip, announcer Peter Doubleday called out Swish and Carol Hillenbrand to the winner’s circle with a unanimous decision. This year they were trained by John Conatser. With unanimous reserve votes, Mary Gaylord McClean and I’m A Treat turned in possibly the best performance of their young career. Coming off the amateur gentlemen’s world title earlier in the week, David Rudder and Adelita were third, followed by amateur mare world’s champion Amusing, ridden by Amy Dix Rock. Also picking up ribbons were Time Well Spent, Lakeview’s Rare-A-Phi, Callaway’s Lil Abner, and Downtown Strutter.

           

The first of the “Big 3” was next, as nine entries competed for the $25,000 Three-Gaited World’s Grand Championship. There was a mix of the new, the established and the extremely successful veteran on hand for this show down. It appeared to be the perfect setting for a Saturday night workout but it was not to be. Judges Fran Crumpler, Kim Crumpler and Melissa Moore turned in their cards and the announcement was made.

           

It was only a few years ago that those involved with Manilla Thrilla wondered if he would live, much less return to the show ring as he became very ill following a world’s champion performance in his junior qualifying class in 2003. Now as a six-year-old, the entire judging panel deemed him the unanimous Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion with Todd Miles in the irons for B & T Vonderschmitt LLC. A former amateur and open world’s grand champion, CH Yes It’s True was the unanimous reserve world’s grand champion with Sam Stafford riding for Pidgeon Roost Farm. The never ending CH Rejoice was the next entry to march up for a ribbon. John Field was again in the irons for the Petit family.

           

The bottom half of the ribbon winners was also an impressive line up of world class contenders. They included The Engraver, Victoria Lynn, Lime Twisted Gin, I’m Sky High, and Sightline.

           

Continuing what was an extremely strong turn out on Saturday night, nine entries vied for the $15,000 Roadster To Bike World’s Grand Championship. While there were some worthy contenders, no one in the history of the World’s Championship Horse Show has dominated this class like Rockport, Indiana’s Raymond Shively. He has won it all with a variety of horses and this year’s world’s grand champion is the second horse to go from the winner’s circle of the USTA Classic one year to the world’s grand championship the following.

           

J.D. Gardner piloted Big Red to the USTA title in '04, and Shively took over the controls this year under the new ownership of DeLovely Farm. It was yet another unanimous world’s grand championship for Shively and the DeLovely crew. With two reserve votes Valiant was the reserve world’s grand champion for owner/trainer Danette Musselman. James Nichols pushed Royal Count to a strong third place finish for Penny Lane Farm. Also in the hunt were Amaruk, DeLorenzo, Rums Last Shot, Pistol Pete, and Homewrecker.

           

There was no let up for the judging panel, nor the audience as 17 entries came back for the Amateur Three-Gaited Championship. Again, the panel got through it without a workout and finally something went right for Misdee Wrigley. Following conformation judging three different horses received first place votes but it was Wrigley’s Callaway’s Merry-Go-Round who finished with the highest tally. This blanket of roses returned to the Kalarama tack room. Icing on the cake to an incredible week, Barbara Goodman Manilow’s home-bred Lady Cinnamon was the reserve world’s champion of champions. Carriage Lane’s That’s Chicago rounded out the top three with Tracy Garcia turning in a good ride. One of the first place votes belonged to CH The Super Nova who finished fourth with Travis Van Zetten.

           

Amateur gentlemen’s champion Kalarama Twister was next in line for a ribbon in fifth, followed by Mahvalous Asset, CH Sold Out Show, and Sir Andrew.

           

Thirteen junior exhibitors aboard gaited horses were the next group to take over Freedom Hall for their 14-17 championship. Over the past few years this has been an extremely competitive championship battle and this year was no exception. CH Tigerlee now holds world titles in the three-year-old, junior, ladies and junior exhibitor divisions. With Ali DeGray riding, the Ruth Gimpel trained team took two of the three first place votes. A star on the west coast all season long, former amateur world’s champion of champions The Full Monty was the reserve world’s champion of champions for rider Julie DeVault and trainer Bill Tomin. Also receiving a first place vote, last year’s champion CH Dusty Beau was the third place finisher for Ashley Walker and her father Jon.

           

This junior exhibitor championship certainly had an all-star cast of entertainers. Of the 10 remaining entries, CH Hank Heiron, CH Diamond Hope, Catch The Moon, CH Callaway’s Arbitrator, and CH Like An Admiral all collected championship ribbons.

           

After having such full open qualifiers it was a little disappointing that only six came back for the $15,000 Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship in which good money was left on the table. It did come down to the two-horse battle that everyone expected between CH Callaway’s Copyright and Along Came A Spider but there was no denying the majestic Supreme Heir son his fifth consecutive Fine Harness World’s Grand Championship. Much to the crowd’s delight, at one point during the tabulations both horses paraded down the straightaway side by side with John T. Jones looking over at George Knight as to accept the challenge. When they got to the other end, Knight and the black mare split off and went another direction.

           

With that win, Copyright, trainer John T. Jones, and owner Fox Grape Farms, Inc., joined the illustrious stallion Colonel Boyle, his trainer Art Simmons and owner W.C. Madlner as the only other combination to win five consecutive fine harness titles.

           

Reserve world’s grand champion Along Came A Spider did receive one first place vote. Knight gave the popular black mare a great drive for owner Georgia Herpin Baker. Also providing the competition were ribbon winners The Social Butterfly, I’m A Lucky Charm, Captivate, and Samur.

           

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the 10 entries for the $10,000 Hackney Pony World’s Grand Championship. The struggles in the Hackney world to keep numbers in the show ring have been well documented so this was extremely encouraging for all involved.

           

With an array of champions from the open and amateur sections competing for the title this turned out to be a good class with world class ponies throughout the ribbons. In the end Gib Marcucci and Nabucco were called to the winner’s circle with two of the three first place votes for owner Mary Campbell. Bent Tree Farm was right at the top again with the Larry Ella trained On The Mark taking the reserve grand championship. Karen Waldron was at the whip. Making his third class of the week, Mr. Hawkeye finished third with Rudy Lewis driving under the direction of Maureen Lydon. World’s champion mare Fancy Ribbons finished fourth with Randi Wightman.

           

The time had arrived. All of the many grueling hours of blood, sweat and tears was about to become reality. The question, as it is every year, who would show up for the Big Dance and even more importantly, who was ready?

           

From that first note of My Old Kentucky Home there were lumps in the throats of all those in Freedom Hall. Even if you were a newcomer and tradition was not ingrained in your bones, this special moment when the contenders enter the arena one by one to the piece of music so eloquently penned by Stephen C. Foster is an electrifying experience.

           

As usual, there were a few surprises. Coming from other divisions to join the stallion (I’m First), mare (Glider’s Star) and gelding (Carlswald Prince’s Dominoe) champions from the week were the amateur combination and Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champions of 2003 CH  Callaway’s Forecaster and Nancy Leigh Fisher and the junior exhibitor gelding New York’s Showtime, ridden by Tammy DeVore. The remaining four (Five O’Clock, Spider Red, Harlem’s Go To Man, Rinanti Cock Robin) all had good shows in their open qualifiers to make them think they had as good as shot as anybody.

           

The one noticeable difference was the absence of CH Boucheron. After stumbling while coming through the gate in the gelding qualifier he never regained his composure and the decision was made to leave him in the stall on Saturday night. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat was never more true for trainer Rob Byers.

           

Railbirds had this class being wide open and was that ever true. The South African horse with an address in England had gained many fans since his decisive win in the Five-Gaited Championship at Lexington Junior League followed by his world’s champion performance in the gelding stake. Callaway’s Forecaster was barreling down the straightaways bringing back memories of his Saturday night performances of the past two years. Then there was no escaping the brilliance of the five-year-old Five O’Clock. He started off a little snakeish, but then got stronger the longer they went. The crowd also had locked in on Matt Shiflet, the young trainer with the down home smile and a white legged mare that could cover a lot of ground rackin’ and trottin’.

           

There were others who gave glimpses of belonging in the upper echelon but the game basically belonged to those four by the time the class was lined up and stripped. The entries were led up to center ring one by one to stand before the anxious crowd and panel of judges which included Kim Crumpler, Melissa Moore, and Melinda Moore. It was great to see that our best performance horses were also wonderful specimens of the breed.

           

Following the strip, the judges huddled for the first time on Saturday night indicating there would be a workout. Trainers were already jockeying for position on the rail as announcer Peter Doubleday called out Carlswald Prince’s Dominoe, I’m First, Callaway’s Forecaster, Glider’s Star, and Five O’Clock.

           

Round two was underway and the endurance test was on. Pass after pass each rider was pushing his or her horse to the limits. One would make a pass worthy of the title and then another. As it turned out, all three judges had different horses winning and the top three horses all had a one, two, three.

           

In the end, however, the horse that was still looking through the bridle was the one who wore the roses. In just his seventh class ever, Five O’Clock was crowned the world’s grand champion and Todd Miles joined the elite few who have ever won the gaited stake and walk-trot stake on the same night.

           

It was also a dream come true for Louisville natives Jean and Chris Nalley who have spent their lives in this industry and believed in the young gelding so much. They made the move to Miles back in June and while it was a hard personal decision, it was one they did for the horse.

           

“It was a very tough decision,” said Chris Nalley. “We have such a relationship with Don [Harris] and have done so many wonderful things together, but earlier this year he had a couple of horses up in the air and we felt like this horse deserved to be with someone who was committed 110 percent to him. That’s not taking anything away from Don, but at that point we felt we needed to be focused.

           

“Todd [Miles] has done a remarkable job conditioning this horse and getting him ready for this. Todd has believed in him from day one. I still have to ask myself, ‘Am I dreaming?’”

           

It was also a dream come true for Lionel Ferreira that they could go through all of the trials and tribulations of importing a horse from South Africa come to the United States and win the Five-Gaited Grand Championship at Lexington Junior League and then the Five-Gaited Gelding World’s Championship, and the Five-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Championship with Carlswald Prince’s Dominoe.

           

“You had to have two tanks of gas for this class,” Ferreira said referring to the long and grueling championship. “My hat is off to Todd [Miles] and his horse.”

           

CH Callaway’s Forecaster and Nancy Leigh Fisher, also on the receiving end of a first place vote, exited with the yellow streamers and another great performance for their fans. It was also another thrilling performance for Matt Shiflet and Glider’s Star who finished fourth with a large ovation. Nelson Green and I’m First were next for Stonecroft Farm, followed by Spider Red and Mike Spencer, Harlem’s Go To Man and Larry Hodge, and New York Showtime with Tammy DeVore.

           

The roses were still falling from the blanket across Five O’Clock’s shoulders as the bulldozers and other machinery came down the ramp to pack away the World’s Championship Horse Show for yet another year. Much history was made, many triumphs were enjoyed and many more heartaches were endured.

Just think, 358 days and we do it all again!

 

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